Top 7 Reasons to Run a Project Retrospective

Top 7 Reasons to Run a Project Retrospective
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A Project Retrospective Should Help the Team and the Business
Research conducted by the Wharton School, Cornell, and the University of Colorado, found that prospective hindsight — imagining that an event has already occurred —increases the ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30%.

So, wouldn’t it be fair to assume that a project retrospective, or project postmortem, done right, should improve future project outcomes by 30%?

We think so.

Top 7 Reasons to Run a Project Retrospective
Let’s start with the top reasons our clients run a project retrospective:

  1. Set Up Future Projects for Success
    Most leaders or project sponsors want to run a project retrospective to increase the odds that future projects and future project teams are set up to avoid past missteps and be better designed for success. The process often occurs after a major project failure when it is critical that key lessons be learned.

  2. Clarify Where Things Stand
    Often project teams just need to get on the same page about the current situation. They need to come together to analyze and agree upon where things really stand before moving forward. Do not underestimate the power of current state analysis during times of change and complexity.

  3. Provide a Psychologically Safe Forum for People to Be Heard
    In general, people long to fit in, to feel appreciated, to be understood, and to connect with others on their project team. Especially after a long, challenging, and complex project, a project retrospective gives the team a forum to share perspectives and to acknowledge contributions.

  4. Come to Closure
    While different people need different levels of closure for different reasons, the psychology of closure tells us that it is not easy to let go of something that was once important — especially if the project ended poorly or if project team members stand to lose turf, power, or status at the end of the project. Individual and team closure after a high stress project gives the team an opportunity to close one chapter and look toward another.

  5. Identify Targeted Areas of Project Improvement
    The more complex the project, the more project best practices and proven methodologies will help. Many leaders use a project retrospective to encourage continuous learning and continuous improvement as part of promoting a high performance culture. By reviewing what went wrong and what went right, the team can learn and apply lessons that will better guide the next project to a successful conclusion.

  6. Improve Project Risk Management
    Especially for highly visible and perilous projects, leaders like to use project retrospectives to identify and manage project risks before, during, and after their projects.

  7. Recalibrate Current Projects
    Smart project leaders incorporate project retrospectives into each key project tollgate or milestone to increase transparency, accountability, focus, clarity, and team alignment.

The Bottom Line
Reviewing what went well, what should be improved, and how to do things better next time should be an integral part of each and every project management methodology. Do you invest the time required to continuously improve?

To learn more about how to improve project success, download The Top 10 Project Management Mistakes and How to Prevent Them from Destroying Your Next Project


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